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Policosanol is a mixture of waxy substances generally manufactured from sugarcane. It contains about 60% octacosanol, along with many related chemicals. In some cases, the terms octacosanol and policosanol are used interchangeably.
Numerous studies have reported that sugarcane policosanol can substantially improve cholesterol profile, with an efficacy approximately equal to that of the most effective drugs used for this purpose. On this basis, policosanol has been approved as a treatment for high cholesterol in about two dozen countries, most of them in Latin America. 1 However, essentially all positive studies of policosanol were performed and reported by a single Cuban research group—a group with a financial relationship to the product. Independent verification of the product’s...
The Cuban research group that holds the patent on sugarcane-derived policosanol has published approximately 80 double-blind studies on their product. If these reports are to be believed, a total of several thousand people with elevated cholesterol levels have been enrolled in clinical trials ranging in length from 6 weeks to 12 months, and in virtually every one of these trials policosanol proved both more effective than placebo and equally effective as statin drugs. 2 However, in science, it is always necessary to have independent confirmation of results before a treatment can be considered proven to work. The first truly independent trials of policosanol as a treatment for high cholesterol began to appear in 2006. Of the 89 studies published since then, enrolling over 500 people,...
Note: Virtually all statements regarding the safety of policosanol derive from studies reported by the patent-holding Cuban research group. Since the reliability of these researchers is now in question, all of the statements below are similarly open to question.
Given the above caveat, policosanol is said to be safe at the maximum recommended dose. In double-blind trials, only mild short-term side effects have been reported, such as nervousness, headache, diarrhea, and insomnia. A safety study of 27,879 people followed for 2 to 4 years showed that use of policosanol produced adverse effects in only 0.31% of participants, primarily weight loss, excessive urination, and insomnia. 3 In animal studies, no toxic signs were seen even at 620 times the maximum...